USA FREEDOM Act

Stop Obama from spying on innocent Americans

 STOP. SPYING. ON. ME.

In a “surprising and sudden move,” the House Judiciary Committee will mark up an amended version of the USA FREEDOM Act on Wednesday.

As reported in National Journal:

The maneuver [by the House Judiciary Committee] may also be a counter to plans the House Intelligence Committee has to push forward a competing bill that privacy advocates say would not go far enough to curb the government’s sweeping surveillance programs.

Indeed, just hours after the Freedom Act earned a markup date, the Intelligence Committee announced it, too, would move forward with a markup of its own NSA bill—the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act—on Thursday.

The more aggressive Freedom Act is sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the one-time mastermind behind the post-9/11 Patriot Act, from which both the Obama and Bush administrations have derived much of the legal authority for their surveillance programs. Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, has vocally condemned NSA spying since Edward Snowden’s leaks surfaced last June. The bill has long been supported by privacy and civil-liberties groups who view it as the best legislative reform package in Congress.

The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman notes possible tension between attempts to pass two different (but related) bills:

House NSA reformer: “There’s more than enough votes to pass the FREEDOM Act”

A leading critic of the NSA bulk data collection program says the votes exist in the House of Representatives to pass the USA FREEDOM Act, a sweeping measure that would end bulk data collection and protect Americans’ privacy rights.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) told The Hill last week that he would offer an amendment to address the NSA bulk meta collection programs if the White House and House Intelligence Committee proposal fall short. Now that he’s had time to review them, the Michigan Republican believes the dueling measures don’t stop bulk data collection at all.

“The proposals from the White House and the Intelligence Committee don’t really make much of a difference. They don’t actually stop bulk collection,” Amash said in an interview on Wednesday. “They transfer where the data is held, but the government can still access it in basically the same way.”

Amash supports the USA FREEDOM Act, introduced in October by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). This measure would not only end the bulk data collection program, it would also close loopholes the NSA could use to access Americans’ personal records.

The USA FREEDOM Act has broad, bipartisan support — a rarity in Washington these days — but it’s currently stalled in the House Judiciary Committee, though Amash notes that it has “a lot of support” from its members.

Tech firms finally call for NSA surveillance reforms

After months of mostly silence on the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection programs, which includes obtaining information of Americans’ phone calls and Internet records, leading tech firms have finally spoken out and launched a campaign for reform.

A half dozen firms — including Facebook, Google, Twiter, and Microsoft — have written letter to President Barack Obama and members of Congress in which they explain that the federal government must reform laws to protect Americans’ privacy. The firms have also launched a website — ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com — that outlines the principles of reform.

“We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide,” wrote the firms in the letter. “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual — rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for a change.”

“For our part, we are focused on keeping users’ data secure — deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope,” the letter continues.

PATRIOT Act author introduces measure to end NSA bulk data collection

James Sensenbrenner

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the author and primary sponsor of the USA PATRIOT Act, announced on Wednesday that he would introduce legislation, the USA FREEDOM Act, to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone and Internet metadata.

“My view of the PATRIOT Act hasn’t changed,” said Sensenbrenner at a Cato Institute conference on NSA surveillance.

“What has changed is what two administrations, Bush 43 and the Obama Administration, have done after I left office as chairman of the [House] Judiciary Committee and did not have my tart oversight pen to send oversight letters that usually were cosigned by Congressman [John] Conyers, then-the ranking member, to the Justice Department, and specifically acting like a crabby, old professors when they were non-responsive in their answers,” he explained.

Sensenbrenner has become a fierce critic of the NSA’s surveillance techniques, referring to them as “excessive and un-American” in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. The NSA has justified the bulk data collection through a controversial provision of the PATRIOT Act. He contends that the NSA is defying congressional intent as the provision, Section 215, allows intelligence agencies to seize records related to an actual investigation into terrorist activity.

Ted Cruz says the new and improved USA FREEDOM Act would end the NSA’s unconstitutional spying program

The new version of the USA FREEDOM Act rolled out on Tuesday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has picked up the support of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who announced the addition of his name a cosponsor.

The latest version of the USA FREEDOM Act, a compromise Leahy worked out with the White House, would end the National Service Agency’s bulk metadata collection program as well as add a civil liberties panel to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to provide some much-needed oversight.

Cruz hailed the measure a bipartisan approach to ending NSA spying.

“Republicans and Democrats are showing America that the government can respect the privacy rights of law-abiding citizens, while at the same time, giving law enforcement the tools needed to target terrorists,” said Cruz in a press release on Tuesday. “The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 ends the government’s bulk record collection program and implements other necessary surveillance reforms.”

“Importantly, it also sends a strong signal that a bipartisan coalition in Congress is working to safeguard our privacy rights,” said Cruz. “I am honored to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle toward delivering this bill to the President’s desk for his signature. We need to protect the constitutional rights of every American.”

Today in Liberty: Economy shed 523,000 full-time jobs in June, conservative groups take IRS scandal to federal court

“Governments never learn. Only people learn.” — Milton Friedman

— Yeah, about June’s jobs report: On Thursday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 288,000 jobs were added in June. That sounds great on the surface, but the devil is in the details. “The Labor Department’s household survey reveals that the economy lost 523,000 full-time jobs in June. At the same time, it gained an astounding 799,000 part-time jobs - the largest such monthly jump in two decades. Part-time jobs now top 28 million for the first time since last July,” the Washington Examiner notes. “This shift to part-time labor is an echo from June 2013, when the economy added 360,000 part-time jobs and shed 240,000 full-time ones. So why has history thus seemingly repeated itself? One possibility is that Obama decided last July to delay Obamacare’s employer mandate from 2014 to 2015.” Interestingly, Politico ran a story over the weekend pointing out that many Obamacare supporters are now “abandoning the employer mandate” because the provision of the law does “more harm than good.” The relevant data from the June jobs report can be found here (under “full- or part-time status”).

Today in Liberty: Big decisions expected this week at the Supreme Court, Hillary Clinton is still completely tone deaf

If you have ten thousand regulations, you destroy all respect for the law.” — Winston Churchill

— Big week at the Supreme Court: The nation’s High Court is expected to rule on two cases, as early as this morning. National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning deals with the limitations on executive power as it relates to executive appointments. President Obama and his administration insist that the January 2012 appointments to the National Labor Relations Board are valid because the Senate was in recess. That argument, however, is specious, at best. The Senate was in pro forma session — meaning that it had not formally adjourned — when President Obama made the appointments. Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores deals with Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate and the religious freedom of business owners. David Green, the owner and founder of Hobby Lobby, argues that the contraception mandate violates his religious liberty under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) because it would force his businesses to offer plans that cover the morning after pill, which, he believes, is tantamount to abortion. The question is whether the RFRA, which protects an individual’s right to freely exercise their religion, applies to businesses and corporations because of the objections of the owners. The Supreme Court will issue opinions today, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Lawmakers targeting the NSA’s unconstitutional spying have a big card to play if Obama and Congress don’t get behind reform

Privacy advocates are closely watching discussions in the Senate over the USA FREEDOM Act, a measure originally intended to end the NSA’s unconstitutional bulk data collection program and protect Americans’ civil liberties. They’re hoping that a strengthened version of the bill will pass the Senate Judiciary Committee, and they may get their wish:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the lead Senate sponsor of the original USA Freedom Act, has repeatedly expressed disappointment in the House-passed version of the bill.

He has pledged to “fight for a stronger USA FREEDOM Act” that bans bulk data collection.

Other pro-reform committee members have joined Leahy’s calls.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he is “very hopeful” that Leahy will move ahead with his version of the USA Freedom Act.
[…]
Harley Geiger, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said these calls for stronger reforms from Senate Judiciary Committee members, including the Chairman, are “very encouraging.”

Geiger said he is “optimistic that they will make improvements to [the House-passed USA Freedom Act], but the precise nature of improvements is still being discussed.”

Congress and Obama’s Freedom Act bait-and-switch won’t stop Justin Amash

Amash and the NSA

A “gutted” version of the USA Freedom Act passed the House last month, but it’s unlikely to make it out of the Senate. On the day the House took the vote, original co-sponsor Justin Amash took to Facebook to explain why he would vote “no” on the final version of the bill:

I am an original cosponsor of the Freedom Act, and I was involved in its drafting. At its best, the Freedom Act would have reined in the government’s unconstitutional domestic spying programs, ended the indiscriminate collection of Americans’ private records, and made the secret FISA court function more like a real court—with real arguments and real adversaries.

I was and am proud of the work our group, led by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, did to promote this legislation, as originally drafted.

However, the revised bill that makes its way to the House floor this morning doesn’t look much like the Freedom Act.

Despite the legislative setback, Rep. Amash is committed to continuing to fight against the surveillance state. The plan is to attach a number of amendments to an upcoming defense appropriations bill.

MLive reports:

Today in Liberty: Remembering D-Day, 4 million uninsured Americans will pay Obamacare tax

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.”Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, June 6, 1944

— Remembering D-Day: Seventy years ago today, Allied forces led by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower stormed the beaches of Normandy, beginning Operation Overlord, a two-plus month campaign to drive the Nazis out of France. As many as 5,000 Allied soldiers were killed on D-Day, including 2,000 Americans. You can check out more D-Day photos herehere, and here. And if you’re a history buff, you may want to watch The World Wars. It’s the cliff notes version and leaves a lot out, but it’s worth seeing.


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